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Author Topic: Asbestos and Smoking Risks  (Read 3971 times)
K5END
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« on: December 04, 2009, 08:08:36 PM »

TG for the misc. forum.

I just came across some interesting data.

Remember all the weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth over asbestos??

I've always wondered how that compares to tobacco smoking in terms of risk for lung cancer.

Here are the relative risks.

Non-smoker, never exposed to asbestos: risk = 1

Non-smoker, exposed to asbestos: risk = 5

Smoker, never exposed to asbestos: risk = 11

Smoker, exposed to asbestos: risk = 55.

Smoking increases the risk of lung cancer by a factor of 11,
Asbestos increases the risk of lung cancer by a factor of 5.
And the two combined increases the risk of lung cancer by 55.

I infer that most of the lung cancer patients whose disease was attributed to asbestos were also smokers, considering how pervasive smoking was among the population at the time.

So here is the question of the day.

With everyone so up in arms about asbestos, why weren't they even more zealous about tobacco smoking?

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KI4VEO
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« Reply #1 on: December 05, 2009, 09:45:45 AM »

Never smoke asbestos.....
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WX7G
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« Reply #2 on: December 08, 2009, 05:36:57 AM »

K5END, the data does not support your inference.

As to your question "With everyone so up in arms about asbestos, why weren't they even more zealous about tobacco smoking?"

A major difference is that asbestos exposure for the most part is involuntary. One does not know they are being exposed. Smoking tobacco is voluntary and the person knows they are taking a risk.
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K5END
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« Reply #3 on: December 08, 2009, 06:59:22 AM »

K5END, the data does not support your inference.

As to your question "With everyone so up in arms about asbestos, why weren't they even more zealous about tobacco smoking?"

A major difference is that asbestos exposure for the most part is involuntary. One does not know they are being exposed. Smoking tobacco is voluntary and the person knows they are taking a risk.


1. You are missing the point: smoking is worse than asbestos, but it has never been portrayed that way. I wasn't talking about choices.

2. Your point is not correct. For decades second hand smoke was no more voluntary than was asbestos. It was in the workplace, restaurants, on aircraft flights...I even remember when people would smoke in hospital rooms. How was that voluntary for the patient?
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N3OX
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« Reply #4 on: December 08, 2009, 08:08:14 AM »

Asbestos doesn't have addictive biochemistry or a long tradition of intentional inhalation for pleasure and social reasons.

Asbestos exposure is a legitimate, scientifically proven health concern.  However, completely rational application of reasonable exposure limits has likely been politically over-ruled by cancer paranoia.

Cigarettes, of course,  are conspicuously exempt from cancer paranoia. 

Cancer paranoia is an interesting thing.  I think in a lot of cases it's a manifestation of feelings that the technological world is outpacing the good of humanity.   The problems we cause for ourselves are vast and complex. 

I have a friend who's worried about 60Hz and cell phone electromagnetic exposure who's still a smoker.   No worries about the smoking (the time and time again proven carcinogen) but a fear of  non-ionizing radiation that doesn't seem to have any human effects even in big studies.  This isn't a rational consideration of relative risks.  It's a feeling that someone somewhere is neglecting public health to provide us with our technological modern world.  Cancer is perhaps an apt metaphor.  Our own good and useful processes getting away from us, overrunning and killing us.

This is a common tension: technological progress vs. the public good.  It has pretty much nothing to do with actual risk.  Asbestos removal is part of a cycle of technological advance, recognition of the disadvantages of that advance, and remediation of those mistakes with a zeal that exceeds what actually needs to be done to reverse the mistake.

I think it's a sort of technological penance, undertaken with a hope that fewer mistakes will be made in the future.   

As such, it doesn't really have anything to do with actually getting cancer.  It has more to do with radical surgery on a metaphorical cancer.

73
Dan












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73,
Dan
http://www.n3ox.net

Monkey/silicon cyborg, beeping at rocks since 1995.
N2EY
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Posts: 3879




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« Reply #5 on: December 08, 2009, 09:11:36 AM »

WX7G and N3OX are 100% right. I'll just add a few more points:

1) There have been anti-tobacco programs and publicity as far back as I can remember. But people keep smoking, and keep starting, because it's cool, it feels good, and it's hard to stop. And tobacco use does have some good effects: it helps people keep their weight down (it's an appetite suppressant) and helps people concentrate (possibly the first ADHD medication) and it's an anti-stress medication (tobacco use is still very high among people in prison and mental patients).

2) Asbestos exposure, particularly the kind that causes health problems, is not the same kind of choice as smoking.

3) Once the hazards of asbestos were understood, industry began phasing it out. It was replaced by things known to be much less hazardous. But there is no replacement for tobacco.

And now the big one

4) The asbestos industry was tiny compared to the tobacco industry. Tobacco lobbyists and lawyers have fought long and hard to keep it legal and popular. Many government regulations written to cover safety, consumer products, food, drugs and agriculture specifically exempt themselves from covering tobacco. Only recently has that begun to change.

73 de Jim, N2EY
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KE3WD
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« Reply #6 on: December 08, 2009, 10:19:03 AM »

My uncle hung asbestos sheeting, carved asbestos, lived in a literal cloud of asbestos dust and chain smoked Pell Mells.  

He died of cancer, but at the age of 92.  

On the other hand, there are people who never smoked and to my knowledge never got anywhere near to that level of asbestos exposure who contracted lung cancer and died at less than half his age at death.  

We now return you to your daily oxmoron of "settled science".  

How's that Global Warming thing workin' out for ya?  

!
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K2YO
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« Reply #7 on: December 08, 2009, 01:09:31 PM »

"With everyone so up in arms about asbestos, why weren't they even more zealous about tobacco smoking?"

Because asbestos doesn't generate tax revenue. Tobacco does.
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N2EY
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« Reply #8 on: December 08, 2009, 01:09:53 PM »

To KE3WD:

Everybody doesn't have the same resistance to a particular disease. Some people are very susceptible, others are very resistant.

The reason your uncle beat the odds is simple: He had a high resistance to those carcinogens.

The problem is that in most cases a person doesn't know what their actual resistance to a particular disease is until

1) they get it, which means it wasn't enough for their exposure

or

2) they're dead.

73 de Jim, N2EY
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N8XXX
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« Reply #9 on: December 08, 2009, 02:41:51 PM »

Right now I’m working on eliminating all private ownership of firearms.  I also have lots of statistics.

As soon as I’m done with that, I’ll jump on the bandwagon and help you with the smoking thing.
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WX7G
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« Reply #10 on: December 08, 2009, 04:04:57 PM »

K5END this subject is complex. We have the temporal aspects - when things were known and when responses to the data occurred - voluntary vs non-voluntary exposure(freedom of choice), industry pull, politics, statistics, the legislative branch, the judicial branch, the federal government, state governments, local governments, private industry, and on. It's quite multidimensional with many causes, many effects, and some confounding factors. One could write a PhD thesis on this subject.

To add some fuel:
The data linking asbestos exposure and health came out decades ago. Attention was then paid to asbestos exposure.

The data linking second hand tobacco smoke and health did not come out until recently. Attention was then paid to this along with much legislation.

So, 'secondhand' exposure to both asbestos and tobacco has been addressed by the government. But firsthand exposure has not been meddled with, has it? If you want to smoke tobacco it is legal. I suppose if you want to inhale asbestos it is legal. This is where the voluntary and involuntary aspect comes in.
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N2EY
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« Reply #11 on: December 08, 2009, 04:16:06 PM »

To N8XXX:

"Guns don't kill people. Bullets kill people. I say we give everybody guns and lock up all the bullets."

Pat Paulsen, 1968
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KE3WD
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« Reply #12 on: December 08, 2009, 06:50:04 PM »

N2EY

Thanks for the elementary school level discourse.  

KE3WD
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K5END
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« Reply #13 on: December 08, 2009, 10:26:57 PM »

You guys illustrate the point I am trying to make, although some more wittingly than others.

Follow me through the explanation.

Tobacco presents a major risk for cancer. There is clear proof.

Period.

It is that simple. It is not complicated.

But humans are cognitive distortion pundits and asinine denial machines.

I presented the asbestos data not for the sake of comparing the relative risks, but for the purposes of a demonstration about how obtusely people will respond to the most obvious information. Dan and one or two others are the only ones astute enough to see that.

It is entertaining to see people over interpret simple information. The information on cancer took us in several directions about taxation, freedom, global warming, gun control, socio-temporo-demography, industrial might, how heavy smokers can beat the odds (for awhile)...ad infinitum.

Hardly anyone said, "heck yeah, cigarettes will kill ya."

But the bottom line is, "cigarettes will kill ya."

So, put that in your pipe and smoke it.





« Last Edit: December 08, 2009, 10:34:06 PM by K5END » Logged
WX7G
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« Reply #14 on: December 09, 2009, 06:02:52 AM »

K5END, my background as a philosophy student allows me to dissect an issue, lay out the parts, and analyze it from mulip;e angles. This can get (very) complicated.

Few issues are cut-and-dried with one pat answer. These kind of answers sound great to those who listen to talk radio but they are not the entire truth.  

If you want to make a point you might state your position and provide evidence.

You provided evidence only and hoped we would come to the same conclusion as you did. This is or miss proposition.

An IBE (Inference to the Best Explanation) is a good way to ferret out the truth of a 'soft' issue such as you have presented. List the evidence (1,2,3,...) and then list inferences from best to worst (1,2,3,...).

What weakens your inference is the 'soft' datapoint that you believe that those who did not smoke but where exposed to asbestos did indeed smoke because smoking was to prevalent at the time the study was conducted. Where is your evidence that those who claimed not to smoke but were exposed to asbestos did indeed smoke?
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